North East theatre and screen actor Donald McBride speaks about his journey from the Durham pit villages to the theatre stage ahead of his one man show Choir coming to ARC on Tuesday 9 and Wednesday 10 September.
Choir has been co-produced with the help of ARC alongside Encounter Productions; an Associate Company of the Stockton arts venue.
The stage play focuses on the character Francis who is essentially the reincarnation of Judy Garland, played by Durham actor Donald McBride.
However Francis, who spends most of the time on stage in underpants and a pair of ruby red heels, is a far cry from the macho characters Donald is used to playing whilst working alongside his friends Tim Healy and Jimmy Nail in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Crocodile Dundee and Spender.
Ahead of his performance, Donald gives an insight into what is possibly his most unusual character role yet:
“I have performed on stage and in front of the camera since starting my acting career in 1977 but the role of Francis in CHOIR is one of the most complex yet hilarious characters I have played!” he commented.
“CHOIR is about the reincarnation of Judy Garland and Francis’ struggle to combat the negativity which surrounded her personal life. It’s about the need for acceptance and belonging and the wider community in which we live, essentially it is a very touching story about life, relationships and love. Judy Garland’s personal life was dominated by Hollywood movie makers who controlled her descions but Francis re-inacts her life and lives it differently, doing the things she never got to do. It will make the audience cry with laughter and with tears in equal measure – not least because I’ll be in my underpants and heels for most of it!”
Speaking on his upbringing which was a far removed from the bright lights of the stage, he comments: “Growing up in the demise of a pit village in County Durham, in the same house in which I still live, I was inspired by my parents who luckily encouraged me to go into acting even though it wasn’t the ‘done’ thing in working class communities back then.
“But I have definitely seen a positive development of the arts in the north-east over the years and now it seems everyone wants to get into performing, which is great. There are some brilliant venues such as ARC which are helping people young and old to do just that.”
Choir is a co-production between Encounter, Alnwick Playhouse, ARC Stockton, Arts Centre Washington and Northern Stage. It has been developed through the Bridging the Gap scheme, which was established to create and tour new theatre across the North East. It visits Stockton for two days as part of its run throughout the country.